Augstein is an anti-Semite, Wiesenthal Center’s Cooper asserts in Berlin

BERLIN (JTA) – Prominent German journalist Jakob Augstein is not merely spewing anti-Semitic stereotypes, he is simply and clearly an anti-Semite, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center  in Los Angeles.

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Cooper was in Berlin Thursday to discuss the center’s controversial 2012 top ten list of anti-Semitic statements.

This year’s list generated fierce debate in Germany, due to the inclusion of Augstein,  number 9 on the list, due to his writings on the Mideast conflict, on Israel and on Israeli Jews. Many Germans already share Augstein’s views, and his influence is why he was on the list, Cooper said.

Speaking at a news conference in Berlin Thursday organized by the Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin, Cooper said the Wiesenthal Center included Augstein because of his unbalanced depiction of Israel as war-mongering, when in fact Israel is constantly on the defensive, Cooper said.

Furthermore, by failing to apologize for his commentary, for example in a published debate with German Jewish leader Dieter Graumann, Augstein has entered the zone of the anti-Semites, Cooper said.

In his discussion with Graumann, published in Spiegel Online on Jan. 6, Augstein said that he found “the notion of an apology… odd. Who should I apologize to?”

Graumann, addressing himself to the Spiegel interviewer, said if he “were to rate the cold contempt with which [Augstein] treats Israel on a scale from 1 to 10, I would give him a solid 13.”

Later in the interview, after Graumann was asked whether he recommends therapy for Augstein, he answered that it was not his place to do so.

Augstein responded that he was “glad to hear that. All Germans probably belong in therapy — and probably all Jews as well.” At which point Graumann reminded him: “The Jews who live in this country are Germans as well.”

Noting that criticism of Israel is not the issue per se, Cooper said Augstein’s writings cross the line to anti-Semitism as defined by Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky – double standard, demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state.

Cooper said he personally was most disturbed by Augstein’s generalizations about haredi Jews, which reflected “classic medieval Jew hatred.” In a column in Spiegel Online last November, Augstein wrote that haredim “make up 10 percent of the Israeli population” and are “cut from the same cloth as their Islamic fundamentalist opponents. They follow the law of revenge.”

Reportedly, Augstein has never visited the Jewish State.

“But he has to be able to step out of himself for a moment” before he goes, in order to learn from the experience, said Cooper, who turned down an invitation from Spiegel Online to debate with Augstein, insisting that Augstein had to apologize first.

The decision to place Augstein on the top ten list was based in part on the influence he has on the public. Said Cooper, who lives in Los Angeles, “I don’t read the LA Times – I read Spiegel Online. This is a global village and the impact is great.”

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